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1961 Fleer Basketball Amtrak Collection

Riding the rails to buy hardwood legends on the Northeast Corridor

  • March 03, 2017
  • Leighton Sheldon

1961 Fleer Basketball WrapperIt Was a Different Time

Would you put your teenage son or daughter on the train to go to another city?  Today, the answer from most parents would be, Absolutely not!"  But it was not uncommon decades ago for parents to allow their children to travel to see relatives. Whether via ground (typically Greyhound Bus), through the air (for transcontinental travel) or by rail (usually Amtrak), moms and dads would pack their little ones with a suitcase and a few dollars and await anxiously until someone called from a payphone at the bus or train station or the airport letting mom and dad know that junior arrived safely.  

It may sound crazy, but even today, most city travel is still by bus and rail, including children going to school daily.  Anyone that has spent time in a major city usually learns the bus routes and the subway and train systems to save both time and money in commuting from one location to the other.  So, thinking back a few decades, rural families would use these same modes of transportation to shuttle their children around.

The History of the Collection

The owner of a small collection of 1961 Fleer Basketball cards that were passed to him from his father related the story of how his dad, a huge basketball fan and still a young teenager, would travel via train on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor from Boston to New York City. He contacted us to inquire about the value and potentially selling the basketball collection that he received from his father.  We'll share the backstory in the son's words:


"Apparently he (Dad) used to take the train from North Boston to New York City in 1961, when he was roughly 14-15 years old, to stay with his aunt and uncle. He traveled to NYC because cards were released sooner there than in Boston, and he would spend money from his paper route to buy as many boxes of cards as he was allowed to buy at the neighborhood convenience store. Sounds like people used to be lined up in the city to buy these advance sets of cards back in 1961. At any rate, he used to keep one or two of each, and with his duplicate common cards, he would flip cards on the street with the neighborhood kids. I guess the point was to get a "leaner" which meant you flipped the card like a Frisbee at a wall and got the card to lean at a 45 degree angle on the wall. If you got a "leaner" you picked up all the cards that had been flipped. That was the game and a way to accumulate more cards back then."

Basketball Cards Used to be Scarcer Than Hen's Teeth

1961 Fleer basketball boxBasketball fans and basketball card collectors didn't have lot of choices after World War II. In fact, the 1961 Fleer issue was only the third main stream basketball set issued in the decade and a half since the end of fighting in the European and Pacific theaters. In 1948, Bowman released a set that featured players from the Basketball Association of America (the NBA was still another year away as the BBA and NBL had yet to merge) and did not produce any sets subsequently. In 1957, Topps produced a set that boasted portrait and action photos of players from the NBA and would not produce another publicly released set until 1969.

As a result, these sporadic issues would include a higher percentage of first appearance, or rookie cards due to the significant gaps in releases. While the Bowman issue contained George Mikan and the Topps issue highlighted Bill Russell, the 1961 Fleer set was dominated by rookie cards of three of the greatest to ever play the game in Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Oscar Robertson.

The Amtrak Collection

There was some good news and some great news about this collection of basketball cards.  The good news was that most of the major stars were included in the collection and despite it being only a partial set, having Wilt, Oscar and Jerry made it as incredible as the history behind it.  The great news was that the Chamberlain was incredibly well-centered.  This is great news as the Chamberlain is notorious for being miscut and off-center and even lesser grade cards of these iconic rookie garner a premium when very well centered.

1961 Fleer Wilt Chamberlain rookie card1961 Fleer Jerry West rookie card1961 Fleer Oscar Robertson rookie card

It Isn't Just All About Wilt

Just because Wilt Chamberalin is the star of the set, and we recently just passed the 55th anniversary of his 100 point game, that doesn't mean that Jerry West and Oscar Robertson were slouches.  In fact, West, one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, is the "model" for the NBA logo (see image of the logo and the tell-tale West drive) and Oscar is still the only player in NBA history to average a Triple-Double for an entire season.

NBA LogoJerry West

Our Buying Philosophy

We've run into a wide range of people and collections over the past decade. Every collection and every collector is different and we treat EVERY collection with the respect and attention that we show for our own collections. We understand that many have put their heart and souls into building their collections. So when you're ready to sell, Just Collect understands the feelings that you're going through and we will work with you to help you reach a decision that is a WIN/WIN, because if you're not happy, we're not happy.

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Just Collect is always buying vintage sports and non-sports cards from 1879 to 1979 as well as select modern cards. If you have a collection that you are considering selling, contact us today to discuss or get our industry leading purchase offer. If you have a collection that you want appraised, please contact us and we would be happy to discuss your collection and help you understand the real cash value of your collection in the current marketplace.

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